by Ben Elowitz

Regular readers know that I love Facebook, and that I think they are well on their way to building what could be the largest media business ever created.

That said, one of their recent advertising offerings – Reach Generator – has struck me with incredible irony.  Lots of other people have already noted the paradox in its most basic form:  after Facebook sells you a cost-per-fan acquisition program, they then sell you a cost-per-fan reach program to reach the very same fans you’ve already paid for.


via Business Insider

But what’s a publisher to do?  The average brand reaches only 16% of its fans, and Facebook controls the aperture of the fire hose.

So should you pay up?

Not unless you’ve tried everything to relate to your audience organically.  The most social publishers have demonstrated reach above and beyond Reach Generator’s promised 75%, simply by understanding how social distribution works and then systematizing it.  That’s right – it’s better than the paid offering, and better than that, it’s free!

That’s the great irony here:  for brands, Facebook Reach Generator doesn’t give you anything you couldn’t get yourself – if you think of yourself as a publisher, know your audience well, have meaningful content, and a strong audience development system.  These will take investment from brands and publishers, but that investment is absolutely critical anyway.  (After all, content is turning out to be the currency of connection on the social operating system).  Indeed, every brand that wants to connect to its audience on the social web MUST master the new skills of content programming and audience development.  It isn’t as simple as just hiring a great agency – it’s about knowing your audience and delivering great content that fits your relationship with them.

The alternative?  Pay Facebook to force less relevant content on your audience.  Think of Facebook Reach Generator as a tax paid by lazy brand managers – get the results without the effort.  But it sure will be expensive.

  • Anonymous

    I love the point of buying fans and then having to pay again to ensure those fans even see your content. 

    Feels like this is Facebook’s MO…  The below example could be said for a lot of Facebook traffic generation releases I think (the like button, commenting, etc).
    Facebook releases a new product, says to Webmasters “Do this and get traffic/results.”  Facebook newsfeeds become saturated by this product/feature.  Facebook then throttles impressions/display of actions in newsfeeds.  And if you’re unhappy with the dip, just pay Facebook for more traffic (or figure something else out, which you’ve pointed out).  Feels like “Trending Articles” or a similar implementation might soon show “sponsored content” to boost social reading content and incremental Facebook revenue.

  • http://www.digitalquarters.net Ben Elowitz

    They sure are always throttling up and down the various factors of edgerank. What’s helped so far is focusing on what the audience wants, rather than what Facebook wants. In the end, it seems like Facebook optimizes Edgerank to best serve the audience. Which seems reasonable.

  • http://twitter.com/natecyph Nathan Wolf

    This is really interesting. Any insight into how you can build and grow your reach organically would be appreciated. Love reading your posts!

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